By Jen Wallach (Iota Chi, Middle Tennessee State University), Associate Director of Education and Leadership Initiatives
As with most things, the advancement of time brings about change in Alpha Chi Omega. Since 1885, we’ve seen our sisterhood grow from one chapter to 146 (with more to come!), from seven Founders to 280,000 initiated members. Just recently, a new, reimagined version of the brand that represents Alpha Chi Omega was launched, and while we stay rooted in our heritage and values, we’ve changed how those are visually expressed.
Something else that has changed over time is the Alpha Chi Omega lyre badge. The lyre was chosen by the Founders for its beautiful design and connection to Greek mythology as the first musical instrument played by the Greek gods. The original badge is in its integral parts identical to the one now constituting the official die from which we get our badges today. However, there are some notable differences; in the first badges, the size was larger, the jewels were chosen by the owner, the strings were plain instead of twisted, and the scroll was flat and gold with the “AXΩ” in black.
Founder Bertha Deniston Cunningham’s badge, the only original badge known to still be in existence, was created in 1885. It features 28 pearls and seven garnets. It is this badge that serves as the inspiration for the badge presented to each chapter president to wear during her term. It is then passed from president to president at each chapter.
My personal favorite badge belonged to Kathryn McReynolds Morrison (Alpha, DePauw University). Kathryn was initiated in 1887 and her badge is a half-inch tall, made of 10-karat gold and features 26 beautiful turquoise stones.
In the early 1900s, Alpha Chi Omega formalized the badge creation process, so most of the more unique badges we have in our history were created sometime before then. Today, while there are 22 different versions of our badge, some with pearls, some with diamonds, some in yellow gold and some in white, the meaning behind each of them remains the same. The significance of our badge and the connection to the initiation ceremony have remained unchanged. Each element of the badge, from the lyre shape, the stones and the three strings, all have special meaning to each Alpha Chi Omega member. It truly is our crowning gift of sisterhood.
Today, sisters can choose from a couple of different ways to wear their badge in addition to as a pin worn on their heart. From necklace pendants to rings, it really is special how each sister can make her badge her own.
If you’re like me and want to preserve the badge you were pinned with just as it was when you received it, you might consider purchasing a second badge to have made into a ring like I did. This badge is smaller than my original one and is fashioned in rose gold, which happens to match my engagement ring, which I love. It belonged to a member of the Eta (Bucknell University) chapter from the very early 1900s, and it is one of my most prized possessions. I am so thankful her family thought to send her badge back to headquarters upon her passing so that a small piece of her legacy in Alpha Chi Omega can continue through my wearing her badge.
Today and every day, I’m proud and humbled to have the honor of wearing the lyre badge. While I believe all fraternity and sorority badges each are beautiful in their own right, I must admit I am quite partial to that golden lyre.
Want to learn more about the badge of Alpha Chi Omega? Check out our history website and search the word “badge.”